Can Violence Be Rooted Out?
The Roots of Violence
THE origins of violence are complex. In addition to the factors in the foregoing interviews, many would add alcoholism, frustration, mental illness, heredity and even a chemical imbalance in the brain. However, the real challenge is not in identifying its roots, but in eliminating violence.
For instance, a newspaper editor whose native state has the highest violent crime death rate in that North American country said: “It’s in our blood. I, for example, am educated and certainly should know better.” Yet he admitted that he, too, if aroused, would kill.
So more than secular education is needed to root out violence. But why? Because, according to Jesus Christ, “out of the heart come wicked reasonings, murders.” (Matthew 15:19) For violence to be eliminated the heart must be changed. But what is powerful enough to do this?
The Power of the Word of God
The apostle Paul wrote: “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword . . . and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) The message from God as contained in the Holy Scriptures is penetrating. Its power to reach the heart was especially evident during the first century. Despite a fierce environment, those who became Christians changed their personality, replacing fits of rage with tender affections.—Colossians 3:7-11; Romans 1:29.
“We, then, alone are without crime,” boasted Tertullian, a professed Christian writer of the second century. He challenged the non-Christians to find on their long list of violent criminals the name of a single Christian!
However, it was not by merely learning the message from God; others who knew these things failed to benefit because they did not obey the message. So obedience from the heart, coupled with the help of God’s holy spirit, produced the changes. The accompanying box contains some of God’s practical counsel.—Hebrews 4:6-11; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
Does It Work Today?
Having the “reputation as one of the best-behaved groups in the world,” is how the New Catholic Encyclopedia praised Jehovah’s Witnesses. Civil officials have likewise lauded the general absence of crime and violence among Witnesses, who are presently helping nearly one and a half million households to learn and apply the Bible. The following experiences show the results.
Al was in and out of penal institutions from the time he was thirteen. While in prison, with a thirty-year sentence for attempted murder, robbery, kidnapping and arson, he began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to the prison once a week. In time, he not only changed his personality but helped others in the prison to do so till his release in 1981. His full story, “From a Lion to a Lamb” is on page 25.
Another example is Bill, a tall, powerfully built man, who would fight at a moment’s notice. He lost more than one job because of his temper. He finally secured a job as a trolley conductor. However, after two violent encounters while on the job—attacking a man with a piece of iron and spitting in the face of another who insulted him—he was again fired. In time he began attending the meetings of the Witnesses. “I learned to appreciate fully Jehovah’s standards and I never wanted to violate them. If I had not found these standards, I would be dead by now. Learning the truth from the Bible helped me to stop and think before I would act,” said Bill, now a mild-tempered congregation overseer.
Stella’s profanity could be heard a block away. She cursed passersby, the mail carriers, her children, her husband—even an armed sheriff. She almost killed her husband with a hatchet that narrowly missed. Anything would set her off. One day, some of the grease from a pan of frying chicken burned her. In a rage she hurled the whole pan out of the door, only to realize that this was all she had for supper! She had to clean off the pieces and finish frying them.
“I told the Witness who called that because of my temper I could never be a Christian,” confessed Stella. “Yet I was deeply impressed by the calmness of the lady who offered to help me study the Bible. I wanted so much to be like her.” After Stella learned that “fits of anger” were serious sins against God, she tried to control her temper.—Galatians 5:19-21.
Even after becoming one of the Witnesses she had to work constantly at guarding her spirit. Her adulterous husband ran with other women. She explained: “Oh, how at times I wanted to kill him! But I would pray and beg for God to give me the strength not to become violent. He always answered my prayers. In time, relief came when my husband left us for good.” With God’s help she has managed to control her violent ways, even helping one of her daughters to overcome a hot temper and helping her to become a Christian disciple.
But what can you do when you are personally provoked? How can you keep your own home free of violence?
Keeping Violence out of Your Home
● Ask yourself: Why am I angry? Try to identify what has got you upset.
● Work on the source of the problem. Rather than blow off steam, turn down the fire. For instance, does your pride or selfishness make you quickly offended? Work to think less of yourself. Also, analyze your priorities in life. Is gaining material things more important than peace?
● Can you walk away from a quarrel? “Before the quarrel has burst forth, take your leave.” (Proverbs 17:14) By getting away at least temporarily, you can meditate on Bible principles and calm down.
● Teach your children that violence is displeasing to God. (Psalm 11:5) Carefully control what they watch on TV or at the movies. Do not fool yourself into thinking that TV does not influence your child’s behavior. Advertisers spend billions of dollars in the proved knowledge that TV is one of the most potent influences on human behavior yet devised. Discipline your children in love, not irritating them with senseless brutality. Let them know how much you care for them. Help them to see in your example the mild, kind way of solving problems.—Ephesians 6:4.
However, some persons will resist any attempt to help them change—no matter what. So, then, what is the full answer to rooting out today’s violence?
The Complete Answer
“When the wicked ones sprout as the vegetation and all the practicers of what is hurtful blossom forth, it is that they may be annihilated forever.” (Psalm 92:7) The Bible promises that God will soon destroy those who violently injure others. He will use his heavenly government, or kingdom, to clear our earth of violence. The Bible says of his King Jesus Christ: “He will deliver the poor one crying for help. . . . From oppression and from violence he will redeem their soul, and their blood will be precious in his eyes.”—Psalm 72:12, 14.
And the results? “In his days the righteous one will sprout, and the abundance of peace until the moon is no more. And he will have subjects from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”—Psalm 72:7, 8.
What an inviting picture! Peace-loving subjects filling the earth. Would you not enjoy living under such conditions? The present violent conditions are evidence that we are deep into the “last days,” and that within our lifetime Jehovah God will bring this change. Yes, a world without violence is near at hand.—2 Timothy 3:1-4; Matthew 24:3, 10-14, 34.
[Box on page 10]
What Is the Bible’s Advice?
● CONTROL YOUR SPIRIT—‘He that is slow to anger and controlling his spirit is better than a mighty man.’—Proverbs 16:32.
● THINK BEFORE YOU ACT—‘The insight of a man slows down his anger and he passes over a transgression.’—Proverbs 19:11.
● RESTRAIN YOUR WORDS—‘Be agitated, but do not sin. Have your say in your heart and keep silent.’—Psalm 4:4.
● BE CAREFUL HOW YOU TALK TO OTHERS—”An answer, when mild, turns away rage, but a word causing pain makes anger to come up.”—Proverbs 15:1.
● AVOID VIOLENT ASSOCIATES—‘Do not have companionship with anyone given to rage that you may not get familiar with his ways.’—Proverbs 22:24, 25.
[Picture on page 9]
For violence to be eliminated the heart must be reached and changed